This semester, I was given the opportunity to write and direct my first short film. A narrative about mental health, it’s to premiere along with other student films at the Michigan Theater in April.

This has been a passion project pent up in my head for so long, now one I can finally bring to life. As a creator, there is a certain responsibility to myself and to the narrative that burdens me. In the past week, I have slept less than 24 hours, tossing and turning in anxiety, planning late at night to ensure everything could be as perfect as possible. We just finished filming this past weekend; I feel like I just gave birth. Despite the stress, I have learned more about creative teamwork than I ever have on any other project.

“Creativity” and “artistry” have always been elusive concepts. How does one actually be creative? Are certain types of creativity more effective? To what extent can you label or self-identify as an artist? Quite paradoxically to its name, creativity can often be the most rigid.

I am the writer and director — which in many cases could be synonymous with dictator. In many instances, I typically want complete, unhindered, uncontested control. I have this immense connection to the work I toiled over for so long; it is a story that has deep meaning to me, a creative vision that I want to bring to life exactly as it is in my head and in the script. However, in this exactness, creativity becomes more of a science than the art it should be.

Filmmaking is a process that requires creative decisions to come in the moment — and also with the input of a team. To me, creativity always seemed like an individual pursuit. Quite the contrary, creativity means being introspective, tapping into deeper emotions and finding inner inspiration based on outside influence. Especially as a first-time director, I needed the input of individuals with far more experience than I had. Filmmaking is not — and cannot be — a solo process. The insight of the director of photography, producer, assistant director and other crew members are what enhance the vision. Since childhood, group work has always been the bane of every student, as it’s unlikely every group member will pull an equivalent weight and also see eye to eye on every decision. On a film set, though, collaboration is not what makes the process a nuisance. Rather, it is an integral, vital part of the creative process.

I could have never completed this project without a team that, albeit with a few artistic disagreements, was so dedicated to putting its best interests into this movie. Essentially, in the process of translating work onto a screen, creativity becomes about the relinquishment of control and the contribution of a team.

What I have struggled to learn is that creativity is not about perfection. Maybe I am just realizing this now, but it is a struggle many other creators have regularly as well. Now, I can only imagine how those in Hollywood could ever manage feature-length projects without the help of massive teams — it just wouldn’t be possible. It has been a difficult, incredibly stressful process putting a vision to life — but I am learning to release control.

And that’s a wrap.

Karen Hua can be reached at khua@umich.edu.

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